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NGOs voice their views at Seattle

Seattle will be remembered for the protests, activism and voices of hundreds of NGOs and social movements. Their presence was very much felt in the dramatic street demonstrations that captured the imagination of the world; in the many workshops, 'Teach-Ins' and strategy sessions they organised in parallel to the official Conference; and in the WTO Conference itself where they talked to delegates and held impromptu press conferences. Below, we reproduce extracts of statements and other documents issued by some of the NGOs. They provide a flavour of the views voiced by civil society at Seattle.


Civil society's Declaration of Seattle

No New Round, instead Turnaround!

'No to a new Round with new issues. Instead Turnaround the WTO.' That was the central message of a joint statement by over 2,000 NGOs and social movements. This statement was the rallying point in the worldwide campaign by citizen groups. It was also endorsed by over 2,000 participants of the globalisation Teach-In (organised by the International Forum on Globalisation) and presented at the WTO-organised Trade Symposium with NGOs in Seattle the day before the WTO Ministerial Conference began.

THE governments of the world are meeting in Seattle for the World Trade Organisation's Third Ministerial Conference. We, the undersigned members of international civil society, oppose any effort to expand the powers of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) through a new comprehensive round of trade liberalisation. Instead, governments should review and rectify the deficiencies of the system and the WTO regime itself.

The Uruguay Round Agreements and the establishment of the WTO were proclaimed as a means of enhancing the creation of global wealth and prosperity and promoting the well-being of all people in all member states. In reality, however, in the past five years the WTO has contributed to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich few; increasing poverty for the majority of the world's population; and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.

The Uruguay Round Agreements have functioned principally to prise open markets for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national economies; workers, farmers and other people; and the environment. In addition, the WTO system, rules and procedures are undemocratic, untransparent and non-accountable and have operated to marginalise the majority of the world's people.

All this has taken place in the context of increasing global economic instability, the collapse of national economies, increasing inequity both between and within nations and increasing environmental and social degradation, as a result of the acceleration of the process of globalisation.

The governments which dominate the WTO and the transnational corporations which have benefited from the WTO system have refused to recognise and address these problems. Instead, they are pushing for further liberalisation through the introduction of new issues for adoption in the WTO. This will lead to the exacerbation of the crisis associated with the process of globalisation and the WTO.

We oppose any further liberalisation negotiations, especially those which will bring new areas under the WTO regime, such as investment, competition policy and government procurement. We commit ourselves to campaign to reject any such proposals. We also oppose the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

We call for a moratorium on any new issues or further negotiations that expand the scope and power of the WTO.

During this moratorium there should be a comprehensive and in-depth review and assessment of the existing agreements. Effective steps should then be taken to change the agreements. Such a review should address the WTO's impact on marginalised communities, development, democracy, environment, health, human rights, labour rights and the rights of women and children. The review must be conducted with civil society's full participation.

The failure of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) demonstrates broad public opposition to the deregulation of the global economy, the increasing dominance of transnational corporations and escalating resource use and environmental degradation.

A review of the system will provide an opportunity for society to change course and develop an alternative, humane and sustainable international system of trade and investment relations.

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Invisible Government

On 26-27 November, on the eve of the WTO Ministerial Conference, the International Forum on Globalisation (IFG) organised a Teach-In on Economic Globalisation attended by over 2,000 people. It set the mood for NGOs for the week to come. The IFG produced many books on the WTO. One of them, Invisible Government, gives an overview of the key issues of concern arising from the WTO's rules and operations. Excerpts from the Conclusion are reproduced below.

Debi Barker & Jerry Mander

No New Round, Turn Around

The WTO has gained unprecedented powers, powers that threaten the basic freedoms of democratic societies and the rights of communities to control their environments, health, cultural, and social conditions. It has impacted many of the internal political processes of member nations at every level of government.

The WTO intrudes into the affairs of national governments for the clear purpose of transferring many real powers of governance away from the control of countries and their citizens to global corporations and the bureaucracies that serve them. The ultimate goal is to permanently codify trade issues and corporate profits making them the primary standards of a new form of global governance.

The WTO has brought under its power many new aspects of agriculture and investment, as well as intellectual property rights, thus giving global corporations greater control of seeds, food, farming, and biodiversity. Now, global corporations are pushing hard to expand the WTO mandate even further via the proposed new Millennium Round. In addition to the important and frightening power grabs in food and public health standards, telecommunications, forestry, and other areas that have already been discussed, new drives are being made to extend WTO oversight in the areas of competition (further favouring large global corporations over smaller, local businesses); government procurement (to open up formerly sacred areas such as education, healthcare, and public broadcasting to foreign corporations); and more control of investment (including the re-emergence of MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment)/MIA (Multilateral Investment Agreement) agreements).

Southern countries are particularly concerned because they are just beginning to deal with the ways in which the formation of the WTO has led to the loss of livelihood for millions of small farmers and business people, the harmful transformation of traditional ways of life, the destruction of native biodiversity, and the pervasive damage to local economic systems that have been invaded by dominant corporate and financial enterprises. They strongly argue that this is the wrong time to burst into yet another round in which the largest and wealthiest countries, with their huge entourages of industry-funded lobbyists, plan to bring a vast number of changes to the table.

Should the WTO be scrapped? Replaced by some new institution? Is it salvageable at all? These questions are being vigorously discussed outside the circle of WTO ministers by thousands of NGOs all over the world, all of whom find the WTO seriously flawed.

What next?

At one end of the spectrum, some still argue for reforming the WTO by including, for example, labour and environmental standards and making its proceedings more transparent and democratic. Another group wants to reframe the WTO agenda to help close the economic and power gaps between North and South. They believe that the strong economy of the North is built upon the colonialist policies of the past, and that WTO rules controlling the exploitation of resources are merely extensions of old policies that favour the North. Still others say that the main points now are to prevent further expansion of the WTO into new terrain and to remove certain areas from its control , such as agriculture, intellectual property rights, water, and all elements of the commons, including the genetic structures of life.

Then there is a large, ever-growing group that feels the WTO, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, cannot be reformed; that it is inherently destructive to the environment, democratic social processes, and equity. Far better, this line of thinking holds, would be to advocate for economic systems that move real powers and control away from the global centre and back to local institutions where there is a greater chance for democratic representation and environmental, social, and cultural sustainability.

Advocates of globalisation continue to argue that there is no viable alternative, and that it is Utopian to oppose this inevitable process. But what is truly Utopian is to say that a development model that defies nature's limits, marginalises millions of people, and destroys economic and social equity can possibly survive for very long.

Debi Barker is deputy director and Jerry Mander is acting director of the International Forum on Globalisation.

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A Call for Change

NGO Statement on the collapse of the WTO Ministerial

THE WTO is in crisis. The process of trade negotiations is fundamentally flawed and cannot be the basis for global policy-making for the new millennium. As the events of the last few days have illustrated, the WTO is:
* Undemocratic - both between people and their governments, and among the governments of the world. For example, without consulting and over the objections of civil society and EU member states, the European Commission announced its support for a Biotechnology Working Party, causing 15 EU trade ministers to issue a joint statement of disagreement.
* Unjust - denying meaningful participation of developing countries, ignoring their needs, and overriding their positions. For example, the chair of the Working Group on New Issues ignored the dissent of developing countries, and mischaracterised their criticism as support for the inclusion of new issues.
* Untransparent - as 'green room' deals exclude developing countries, and as civil society continues to be ignored and denied information. For example, African nations, small island states, and least developed countries were excluded when a small group of powerful countries brokered a deal addressing the lack of implementation of existing WTO commitments.
* Unbalanced - elevating short-term economic interests of a few over broader concerns for equity and sustainability. For example, the EU and others continue to promote an investment agreement despite the deep concerns of civil society as demonstrated by the defeat of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). Similarly, the US Trade Representative (USTR) told NGOs working on forest issues that their concerns about the impacts of forest product liberalisation would be disregarded.

These examples illustrate a systemic flaw. The ascendency of a narrow set of business interests over all other interests of society must be reversed. As the protesters world-wide have made clear, the WTO negotiators must not return to Geneva to continue business as usual behind closed doors. Rather, we must all engage in a broader search for a democratic, humane, and sustainable international system.

Action Aid
Action Aid Brazil
Africa Trade Network
AIDC, South Africa
Asia Indigenous Women's Network
Center for International Environmental Law
Citizens Trade Campaign, USA
Common Front on the WTO, Canada
Council of Canadians
Consumer Unity and Trust Society, India
Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Friends of the Earth Japan
Friends of the Earth, US
Greenpeace Brazil
Independent Farmers Association, Japan
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA
International Coalition for Development Action
International Forum on Globalization
International South Group Network
NCOS, Belgium
Network for Safe and Secure Food and Environment, Japan
Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines
Oxfam Fair Trade Belgium
Pesticide Action Network, Asia and Pacific
Polaris Institute, Canada
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, USA
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Seikatsu-Club Consumers Cooperative Association, Japan
South Asia Watch on Trade, Economy and Environment
Third World Network
Toto Consumers Cooperative, Japan
World Development Movement

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Suspended in Seattle: Why the WTO talks are a mess

The following is based on two press releases issued by the World Development Movement in Seattle on 3 December 1999.

An opportunity for change

EVENTUALLY, governments halted trade talks in Seattle. Amongst the many reasons were:

* The WTO and the USA (who hosted and chaired the talks) mismanaged the talks and alienated most of the delegates.

* The bullying and arm-twisting tactics, particularly used by the USA, led to an angry response from developing countries who were systematically marginalised.

* The basic strategy of the EU was flawed - there was no way that developing countries have the capacity to embark on a comprehensive round of trade negotiations, particularly those that are primarily of interest to EU multinational companies.

* The shadow of protesters outside, the glare of media scrutiny and lobbying by NGOs brought a glimmer of openness to trade negotiations and exposed the deep flaws in the way governments have traditionally negotiated trade deals.

We need to ensure that the right lessons are learned from Seattle. When the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) failed it was seen as a failure to sell the agreement. But the fatal flaws were in the objectives of the agreement itself. The same is true of trade. It is time to make trade rules fairer and develop international rules that are enforceable on multinational companies.

WTO negotiations: They're a mess

WTO negotiations have been an excuse for arm-twisting and bullying. The US and the EU must stop trying to bounce developing countries into agreements that they bitterly oppose and are clearly not in their interests.

There was strong criticism of the US and the WTO in statements issued by the Africa group and the Latin America/Caribbean group of countries. At a seminar organised by WDM and others, Sir Shridath Ramphal (Caribbean negotiator) characterised the negotiations as 'neo-colonialist'. He warned against any attempt to blame developing countries if they exercised their right not to sign a bad deal today. 'Most participants will leave with a feeling of exclusion. If it fails, the blame must lie with the WTO and the USA.'

Even the British Secretary of State, Stephen Byers, joined in and said, 'It's a mess.' EU Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, called them 'medieval'. However, the EU has not been beyond arm-twisting of its own, especially in their attempts to get agreements on the 'singapore' issues of investment, competition and government procurement.

Corporate lobbies have been pushing hard for an investment agreement in the wake of the failed MAI. The EU has been selling investment by saying it is not an MAI Mark II, but fails to point out that the objectives are almost identical - investment liberalisation and investor protection. Background papers from the EU and UK confirm that they still want provisions such as pre-establishment rights for foreign multinationals, but they are prepared to get them through successive negotiations. The proposals from developing countries for the inclusion of enforceable responsibilities for multinationals are not on the table.

Coherent and persuasive

Investment should not be in the WTO. International rules on investment are needed, but not these ones and not in this forum. The strong stand by many developing countries against EU pressure is supported by the 1,450 civil society organisations from 90 countries that signed a joint statement against the new issues.

Developing countries have made coherent and persuasive proposals on implementation. It is an insult that their agenda for repair of unfair rules is being blocked by the industrialised countries. There will come a point today when developing-country governments must make up their minds over whether they will accept the deal on the table. A sensible decision may be to take more time in order to get a fairer deal and a less pressured process. Their citizens, particularly those who are poor and vulnerable, deserve nothing less.

Barry Coates is the Director of the World Development Movement.

WDM is an independent campaigning organisation which aims to change policies of governments, international agencies and companies in the North to stop exploitation of people in the Third World.

WTO must ensure access to medicines - HAI

The following is an excerpt from a statement issued by Zafar Mirza, co-ordinator of Health Action International (HAI), calling for a Ôpublic health orientation in TRIPS'.


MORE than 50% of people in developing countries do not have access to essential drugs. Most people with AIDS in sub-Saharan African, Asia and Latin America cannot afford lifesaving drugs - antiviral drugs that prolong life, and drugs to fight AIDS related infections.

Companies are able to charge exorbitant prices for their products because they have monopoly rights as long as the drug is under patent. All countries that implement the TRIPS agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) are obliged to guarantee patents on new medicines.

HAI recommends that WTO:
*   Set up a Standing Working Group on Access to Medicines, to help countries make essential drugs, including AIDS drugs, available to the poor;
*   Develop mechanisms to prevent strong-arming of countries who use provisions within the TRIPS agreement to make needed medicines available;
*   Encourage research and development for the treatment of tropical and neglected diseases.

Women's Caucus Declaration, Third Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation, Seattle

The Women's Caucus, comprising women's organisations from the South and North attending the Seattle Conference, issued the following declaration:


WE are concerned that the rule-based system created by the WTO has produced increasing levels of inequality in both the North and South. This system privileges corporate interests over community and national interests. Trade liberalisation is not gender-neutral and has a different impact on women and men, similar to the different impact it has on developed and developing countries. While some women may gain from opening up of trade, the majority of the world's women and girls are adversely affected by the unequal power relations created at the national, regional and international levels by the new trade regime. We firmly believe that the trade policies should ensure gender equality and equity and people-centred sustainable development.

We believe that the WTO undermines major international agreements that women have worked hard to get their governments to commit to, including the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the World Conference on Human Rights, the World Summit for Social Development, the Fourth World Conference on Women and Habitat II. We further believe that all WTO agreements and policies should be bound by international human rights standards including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The Women's Caucus urges the Members of the WTO to consider the following concerns clustered around the following critical areas of discussion at the Seattle meeting:

Systemic and Implementation Issues
* Ensure transparency and open participation of all member states in every negotiation process. Green Room by invitation - only meetings clearly violate principles of both transparency and inclusiveness as well as the integrity of the consensus process.
* Ensure that women's and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have equal access to information. Institute dialogue that allows substantial exchange between trade officials and NGOs.
*  We recommend a comprehensive gender, social, and environmental assessment of the implementation of the Uruguay Round agreements before undertaking a new round. Such a review should address the negative impacts and correct the deficiencies and imbalances in the agreements. This review and assessment should involve consultations with women's and other NGOs.
* Democratise the WTO's dispute settlement system to ensure impartiality, equitable access and a final appeal process outside of the WTO. Introduce and implement mechanisms to reduce the costs of dispute settlement for developing countries.
* Ensure gender and regional balance in all WTO decision-making bodies including expert and scientific panels.
* We urge developed countries to uphold the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries. Developed countries must fulfill their commitments in this area, especially for net food-importing countries and least-developed countries.

Agriculture
*  A review of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) must include the experience of consumers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women, civil society groups, and research non-government organisations as well as multilateral organisations that have been critical of the existing rules governing agriculture.
*  Ensure food security based on self-sufficient, small-scale, diverse agriculture instead of corporate export-oriented, agro-industrial mono-cultures.
*  Ensure that southern and small farmers, particularly women, are not undermined by competitive pressures resulting from the rapid removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers and subsidised agricultural products from northern countries.
* Adopt the Convention on Biodiversity. Ban the patenting of living organisms and protect the knowledge, practices and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
*  Ensure that public services such as health, education, social welfare, water, energy, among others, are affordable and accessible.
*  Promote symmetry in the treatment of the international mobility of capital and labour. Liberal entry of multinational service corporations must be matched by market-opening measures for labour in developed countries.
* Provide women with capital, skills, training and technology that would allow them to take advantage of opportunities that increased trade in services provides.
* Ensure that trade policy does not overturn domestic regulations on consumer protection, public safety, public health and education, food safety and environmental protection, among others.

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Indigenous Peoples' Seattle Declaration on the occasion of the WTO Third Ministerial Meeting


WE, the Indigenous Peoples from various regions of the world, have come to Seattle to express our great concern over how the World Trade Organisation is destroying Mother Earth and the cultural and biological diversity of which we are a part.

Trade liberalisation and export-oriented development, which are the overriding principles and policies pushed by the WTO, are creating the most adverse impacts on the lives of Indigenous Peoples. Our inherent right to self-determination, our sovereignty as nations, and treaties and other constructive agreements which Indigenous nations and Peoples have negotiated with other nation-states, are undermined by most of the WTO Agreements. The disproportionate impact of these Agreements on our communities, whether through environmental degradation or the militarisation and violence that often accompanies development projects, is serious and therefore should be addressed immediately.

Proposals

In light of the adverse impacts and consequences of the WTO Agreements,we Indigenous Peoples, present the following demands:

A review of the Agreements should be done to address all of the inequities and imbalances which adversely affect Indigenous Peoples. The proposals to address some of these are as follows:

* For the Agreement on Agriculture
a. It should not include in its coverage small-scale farmers who are mainly engaged in production for domestic use and sale in the local markets.
b. It should ensure the recognition and protection of rights of Indigenous Peoples to their territories and their resources, as well as their rights to continue practising their indigenous sustainable agriculture and resource management practices and traditional livelihoods.
c. It should ensure the food security and the capacity of Indigenous Peoples to produce, consume and trade their traditional foods.

* With regard to the liberalisation of services and investments we recommend the following:
a. It must stop unsustainable mining, commercial planting of monocrops, dam construction, oil exploration, land conversion to golf clubs, logging, and other activities which destroy Indigenous Peoples' lands and violate the rights of indigenous peoples to their territories and resources.
b. The right of Indigenous Peoples to their traditional lifestyles, cultural norms and values should likewise be recognised and protected.
c. The liberalisation of services, especially in the areas of health, should not be allowed if it will prevent Indigenous Peoples from having access to free, culturally appropriate as well as quality health services.
d. The liberalisation of finance services which makes the world a global casino should be regulated.

* On the TRIPS Agreement, the proposals are as follows:
a. Article 27.3(b) should be amended to categorically disallow the patenting of life-forms. It should clearly prohibit the patenting of micro-organisms, plants, animals, including all their parts, whether they are genes, gene sequences, cells, cell lines, proteins, or seeds.
b. It should also prohibit the patenting of natural processes, whether these are biological or microbiological, involving the use of plants, animals and micro-organisms and their parts in producing variations of plants, animals and micro-organisms.
c. It should ensure the exploration and development of alternative forms of protection outside of the dominant Western intellectual property rights regime. Such alternatives must protect the knowledge and innovations and practices in agriculture, health care, and conservation of biodiversity, and should build upon indigenous methods and customary laws protecting knowledge, heritage and biological resources.
d. It should ensure that the protection offered to indigenous and traditional knowledge, innovation and practices is consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity (i.e., Articles 8j, 10c, 17.2, and 18.4) and the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources.
e. It should allow for the right of Indigenous Peoples and farmers to continue their traditional practices of saving, sharing and exchanging seeds, and cultivating, harvesting and using medicinal plants.
f. It should prohibit scientific researchers and corporations from appropriating and patenting indigenous seeds, medicinal plants, and related knowledge about these life-forms. The principles of prior informed consent and right of veto by Indigenous Peoples should be respected.

We call on the member-states of the WTO not to allow for another round whilst the review and rectification of the implementation of existing agreements has not been done. We reject the proposals for an investment treaty, competition, accelerated industrial tariffs, government procurement, and the creation of a working group on biotechnology.

We believe that the whole philosophy underpinning the WTO Agreements and the principles and policies it promotes contradict our core values, spirituality and worldviews, as well as our concepts and practices of development, trade and environmental protection. Therefore, we challenge the WTO to redefine its principles and practices toward a 'sustainable communities' paradigm, and to recognise and allow for the continuation of other worldviews and models of development.

Indigenous peoples, undoubtedly, are the ones most adversely affected by globalisation and by the WTO Agreements. However, we believe that it is also us who can offer viable alternatives to the dominant economic growth, export-oriented development model. Our sustainable lifestyles and cultures, traditional knowledge, cosmologies, spirituality, values of collectivity, reciprocity, respect and reverence for Mother Earth, are crucial in the search for a transformed society where justice, equity, and sustainability will prevail.

The above is an edited version of the full Declaration, which has been signed by indigenous groups all over the world. For more information, please contact Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of Tebtebba Foundation, Inc. (Indigenous Peoples' International Center for Policy Research and Education). Email: tebtebba@skyinet.net

Environmentalists' response to WTO failure

Matthew Stilwell, managing attorney, Geneva office of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL): 'This marks the turning point in the short life of the WTO and global economic policymaking. No longer can trade insiders control decisions with implications of global importance. Governments of the world must now take into account the concerns of their citizens.'

Andrea Durbin, director of the international program, Friends of the Earth: 'A lack of democracy and transparency led to the demise of these talks. It is clear that the WTO will never be the same again. It has to open up, become more democratic and include full participation of civil society and developing countries. Trade rules must benefit people and the environment, not just corporate interests.'

 


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